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Xenotransplantation. 2007 Mar;14(2):126-34.

Transgenic expression of HLA-E single chain trimer protects porcine endothelial cells against human natural killer cell-mediated cytotoxicity.

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Laboratory for Transplantation Immunology, Department of Internal Medicine, University Hospital Zürich, Zürich, Switzerland.



The susceptibility of porcine endothelial cells (pEC) to human natural killer (NK) cells is related to the failure of human major histocompatibility complex (MHC)-specific killer inhibitory receptors to recognize porcine MHC class I molecules. The aims of this study were (i) to assess the protection of pEC against xenogeneic NK-mediated cytotoxicity afforded by the stable expression of HLA-E single chain trimers (SCT) composed of a canonical HLA-E binding peptide antigen, VMAPRTLIL, the mature human beta2-microglobulin, and the mature HLA-E heavy chain, and (ii) to test whether HLA-E expression on pEC and porcine lymphoblastoid cells affects the adhesion of human NK cells.


Porcine EC lines expressing different levels of HLA-E SCT were generated by Ca(2)PO(4)-transfection followed by limiting dilution cloning. Surface expression of HLA-E was measured by flow cytometry. Susceptibility of transfected pEC lines against human NK cells was tested in (51)Cr-release cytotoxicity assays. Interactions between human NK cells and HLA-E positive pEC or porcine lymphoblastoid cells were further addressed in adhesion and conjugation assays.


The level of protection of pEC from human NK-mediated cytotoxicity correlated with the intensity of surface HLA-E expression. Furthermore, the HLA-E SCT-mediated protection was specifically reversed by blocking the HLA-E specific NK inhibitory receptor CD94/NKG2A. HLA-E expression does neither affect the adhesion of human NK cells to pEC nor the heteroconjugate formation between human NK and porcine 13271.10 cells.


Stable surface expression of HLA-E on pEC was achieved in the absence of extrinsic peptide pulsing and provided partial protection from human NK cytotoxicity. Though insufficient to inhibit xenogeneic NK cell reactivity completely, transgenic HLA-E expression on pig organs might contribute to a successful application of clinical xenotransplantation in combination with other protective strategies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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